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Producers to Watch: Dan Lupovitz

Producers to Watch: Dan Lupovitz

Dan Lupovitz – Creative Producer
by guest blogger Peter Belsito

I have known Dan for some years now and he is always a very busy productive guy. L.A. based but with an international agenda of travel, production, financing and filmmaking, like most producers I admire, one of his strong suits is developing material from bare pitches, literary properties, non fiction or even scripts that need ‘some finessing’. It’s guys like Dan, the slow, steady, productive, savvy workers, always creative, great with people, always churning out a project per year, year in and year out that keep our business on an even keel if our business is ever on an even keel. Dan is one of my culture heroes and I am glad to say he is also a good friend.

Dan hails from Pittsburg where his movie career began when he was still in college and worked as a production assistant / intern for famed horror Director George Romero (on a sequel to his smash hit zombie film, ‘Night of the Living Dead’) called ‘Dawn Of the Dead’.

George Romero

After studying Media at Northwestern University he moved to L.A. and began working as an intern for Fred Roos (of Coppola and ‘Apocalypse Now’ fame) at the ill starred American Zoetrope office run then by Francis Ford Coppola. While there he was to work of Hammett for Wim Wenders, but it took too long to begin shooting and so he went to work for Frank Marshall on Sudden Turns’ which looked then very good — it had a production budget and shooting was to begin in two weeks. Then UA (United Artists) decided to put it into the infamous Hollywood category known as ‘turnaround’.

Frank Marshall

Dan then became a reader for the veteran producers Edie and Ely Landau. Following that job were a variety of assistant, production and development jobs.

Neil Canton (brother of studio exec Mark Canton), who was then Frank Marshall’s partner, brought Dan into Warner Bros. to work on the (soon to be big hit) The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Dan was Producer’s Assistant, the film was greenlit … and the rest is history.

Neil Canton

After Buckaroo, Dan and W.D. “Rick” Richter became producing partners, and Dan produced his first film Late for Dinner with Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden.

Marcia Gay Garden

Then Dan solo produced an American Playhouse (TV) film Mrs. Cage with Anne Bancroft and Hector Elizondo (and both were nominated for Emmy Awards). From there he went to New York where he produced Search and Destroy for Executive Producer Martin Scorcese.

Martin Scorsese

The was also the first foray of Avi Lerner (International Sales Agent, Founder and co-owner of Nu Image and Millenium Pictures) into fine drama and non genre filmmaking. This film was also directed by world famous painter David Salle (simultaneous timewise with another great artist, Julian Schnabel, doing the art bio pic Basquiat). Dan is extremely proud of the fact that he, Dan, put Avi Lerner and Martin Scorsese in the same room together.

Avi Lerner
Dan returned to L.A. to produce The Velocity of Gary with Dan Ireland directing. The film starred Salma Hayek, Vincent D’Onofrio and Tom Jane.

Dan Ireland

Following that he did Sam Shepard’s Simpatico as a film starring Jeff Bridges, Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone, Albert Finney and directed by major London West End theater guy Matthew Warchus.

Sam Shepherd

Dan then went to the U.K. and produced Death Defying Acts about the Great Houdini’s last days with Catherine Zeta Jones and Guy Pearce.

Catherine Zeta-Jones
He was also a producer on Good, starring Viggo Mortenson, also financed with international partners.

Viggo Mortensen

In Britain Dan learned all the U.K. financing system’s tricks and angles, the players and companies, how this system works. Additionally Dan was able to connect his work there with U.K. financing and all those connections, to branch out to a lot of other international and European financial players and also learned about U.K. and Euro treaty co-productions. As an American generating co-productions between countries he’s not a citizen of, Dan’s an anomaly in the movie business.

Dan is now producing Hunky Dory a U.K. film production with Jon Finn who produced the movie Billy Elliott as well as its stage production around the world. Dan looks to Billy Elliot as a model of a small, no budget film, independently produced, which faced all the obstacles and triumphed in the end. He states,

Billy Elliot is the kind of film that all institutions in the current movie business run from saying the usual ‘it’s too small, who cares about kids dancing?, it’s too provincial’ … but, the team had a vision, jammed it through, made it and then ….

A Big Cannes Screening woke up the world market to this film. Major theatrical play around the world followed with many prizes and awards. U.K.’s Working Title then developed it (with music by Elton John) as a theater musical directed by Stephen Daltry (who also made the film) and it became an international phenomenon, grossing 500 billion US dollars worldwide. Dan maintains this type of ‘outside the box’ thinking is the ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow for independent filmmaking.
Dan sees the filmmakers’ problem today as this:

We always have to go back to something we have lost track of in this process and that’s the movie. We get distracted by the components of the process, the things along the way that ‘provide a safety net’: marketing problems, securing ‘names’, sales estimates. All along the people are always attempting the mitigate risk, often at the expense of the final product. Today names are less important, marketing is less conclusive. To the viewing public what matters only is the viewing experience. The movie has to offer a form of entertainment superior to sitting home on a computer or watching reality TV.

Our job is thus to find, invent, create the kind of material to compete for viewers, for ticket buyers, to create an experience they cannot see anywhere else. We have to make it in a way that doesn’t compromise our collective creative vision and that is not financially irresponsible (to investors).

Dan, as a producer making a film and the deal:

I like to play in as many countries as possible. I like to create different routes of putting financing together. International financing in more countries actively creates awareness of new talent possibilities connecting to local audiences.

Dan finds himself building business plans, work and connections exponentially to many countries at the same time as digging deeper here in the U.S.

I call this process ‘mix and match’. It is dynamic, fulfilling and can lead to great and profitable films.

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